Philip Reid was born and raised in Memphis from 1967 to 1986. He attended Hendrix College, a select liberal arts college, from 1986 to 1990, pursued scuba diving and sailing after that, while trying to avoid the 9 to 5 with mixed success, and went to East Carolina University in 1996 to work on an MA in maritime history and nautical archaeology. After that he did some museum work, wrote articles as a freelancer for sailing magazines, and taught history as adjunct faculty in Wilmington for ten years before beginning study at Memorial in 2012. He has been married to Andie for 26 years and we have had at least one Bernese mountain dog in the house since shortly thereafter.
How and why did you decide to attend Memorial for your graduate degree?
The most important criterion for selecting a doctoral program, especially in the British or Canadian systems that emphasize research over coursework, is finding the right supervisor. You are basically apprenticing yourself to that person for five years or so. My current supervisor and I began an e-mail exchange over a year before I formally entered the program. The list of universities I was considering was unusually small, as I knew I wanted to pursue maritime history specifically, and that is a small specialty. And I knew I wanted a school outside the U.S., as U.S. programs require two years of coursework and I already had a 45-hour MA and knew what I wanted to work on. Clinching the deal was the fact that I could spend one academic year in residence, rather than the usual two, which caused much less disruption of real life for a middle-aged married person already well settled.
What drew you to explore history originally?
That’s so old that the question is perhaps impossible to answer, though it seems simple on the surface. I’ve been interested in it since I was a child. I was good at it in school, and the older I got, the more I wanted to study it. So it’s always been with me. It just took a long time for it to stand apart from other interests enough to present itself as a potential vocation.
Can you tell us a bit about your current research?
I am exploring technological continuity and change in the ordinary merchant ship of the British Atlantic in the 17th and 18th centuries, in the context of the development of the Atlantic world.
A supervisor can be key to the success of any grad student. What does your supervisor, Neil Kennedy, bring to his role as your advisor and mentor?
If I were to do a pie chart of said “keys to success,” external to one’s own motivation and ability, the importance of the supervisor would be reflected in an overwhelming swath of one color, with other factors—even important ones—squeezed together in a small section. Our particular relationship is unusual; we are the same age (within a month), we share personal interests, and we have compatible sensibilities, so we have become very good friends. That’s different from a more typical situation where, for example, you have a 27-year-old grad student studying under a 60-year-old supervisor. But because we approach the professional-academic side of the relationship with mutual respect and we take it seriously, it has not introduced any appreciable awkwardness into the relationship. He does not hesitate to be incisive with criticism when that is called for, and of course I am relying on him for that, and even if what he says isn’t any fun (which it frequently is, actually), it is what I need and I make use of it. The level of support and interest he shows in what I’m doing never wavers.
Have you attended any conferences/delivered any papers this year? Can you give details?
Not this year, but last year. I presented a preliminary report on using the experiences of masters and crew of period replicas as alternative historical evidence at the annual conference of the North American Society for Oceanic History in Monterey, California in May 2015. My paper received the Clark G. Reynolds Student Paper Award and a revision of it is forthcoming in The Northern Mariner/Le Marin du Nord.
Are you involved in any organizations on-campus or off? If so, can you explain and detail such involvement?
I co-edit the H-Net network H-Maritime, an online resource for maritime historians and archaeologists to share information and discuss subjects of mutual interest.
What do you like most about being a graduate student at Memorial?
The consistent unreserved support. The university has been very good to me, and that helps a great deal with the kind of long-haul motivation one needs to complete a doctorate. Getting an A.G. Hatcher scholarship this year was a big boost; it was gratifying to have that level of validation beyond the department level.
What do you hope to do after completing your graduate degree?
First, not be a “student” any more, which at 48 does feel a bit weird! I have already written three articles this year, and I’m pursuing my research beyond the thesis. I intend to produce a book based on that work, though it will move far beyond the thesis. I’d like to consult on museum projects in the field, and work on documentaries. I also have a second book project in mind.